Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Week : What I Love about 5th Grade

Although, I might have needed a few more days prior to the arrival of students to complete some special education paperwork and meetings, this year is off to a Fantastic start!

First of all, I must brag and say that "I have the best group of students EVER!!!" These fifth graders are so eager to learn!

I truly believe that teaching 5th grade is really my passion.   With that said, here are the Top 5 Reasons I love 5th Grade:

Top 5 Reasons I Love 5th Grade

  1.  The students are capable enough to mange things alone (i.e. blowing noses, using the
  2. Students get my quirky jokes and sarcasm.. (I don't care what you call me-Just not late for Lunch!)  I recently got married and the students keep using my previous last name- Plus 'Bartschi' is a bit tricky for students with speech difficulties and it has been proven difficult for many adults also. Like I said Don't call me late for lunch or recess!
  3. Students are dreamers and problem solvers.
  4. Students are still excited about new ideas.
  5. They are great at having conversations.
Bonus #6  The 5th Grade Teaching Team ROCKS!

Wishing you a year of great progress and success! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of 5th Grade

As the first day of school comes to an end, I can't help but reminisce about my fifth year in grade school!

I really hate to take ownership of this yearbook photo from 5th grade...YIKES! My husband has cautioned me about posting this photo.  He thinks someone might use it as some form of blackmail in the future. lol He sure is silly!! ;)

Wishing everyone a very happy and successful school year!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's Back to School for Me!

So I just picked out my first day outfit and outfits for the rest of the week.  I am such a dork.  It's something I have done since was in grade school.  My mom still jeers me for laying out my clothes like a little person each night. I would take them off the hangers and spread them out over my chair. I just liked to be ready in the morning.  On the other hand, my little sister saved time by wearing hers to bed, so she could sleep as late as possible. She'd probably die if she found out I told ya'll so let's keep that between us. :)

Back to school things to do!
1. Paperwork
 I do have loads of IEPs to write actually, I believe it's 12 that need to be written in about 6 weeks that's 2 a week.  Yikes, I better get moving.  A few years ago our school piloted IEP rewrites in the fall. It was super crazy but once the paperwork was done it was so nice not to worry about meetings scattered throughout the year.  We are actually trying to phase it out now but I really didn't mind it. The best part was actually meeting the parents before parent/teacher conferences. It  really helped to build positive relationships from the start.

2. Back to school staff development
Meet and greets tomorrow and other exciting meetings planned for this week.  Totally wish we had some make and take Pinterest Professional Developments. Actually that might not be such a bad idea.

3. My classroom
 My classroom is progressing nicely, so I feel confident I'm almost ready for back to school night next Wednesday! Here is a sneak peak. What do you think? Feel free to leave any suggestions on better storage ideas. I need to laminate some motivational posters to hang up. I also plan to add some more borders around the white board. So far so good!
The bulletin board outside my office/classroom. SWEET right??! lol

My guided reading/small and group table. I took down my curtain over the shelves to iron. That shelf  is such a mess right now. :( 

Student work table, para desks and you can see my classroom library in the back corner :)

 Till next time fellow bloggers! :) 


Monday, August 12, 2013

Office Chair Chaos

Ok. So last week I was inspired from yuppers-you guessed it- PINTEREST!  OMG, I am so addicted I mean Pinterest and TpT  who can get enough  of them. As my friend Kerry called it 'Pintervention', Well, I certainly need a support  

I grabbed my husband's handy dandy tool box, my guided reading chair and my chevron fabric planning to conquer what I thought was going to be a quick project.  Yeah right- what was I thinking?

As I was taking apart the chair I ran into a few complications. This quick project turned into a monstrosity. I had anticipated removing the plastic covers and attaching fabric on top with a staple gun, but most of the plastic covers were unable to be removed. I unscrewed about a million screws to find out you can't take all the plastic covers off!!  :(  I was determined to cover the chair no matter how long it took even after a little 5 year old pouting session and I mean a pouting session.  I was able to carefully pry back the plastic using a butter knife and stuff the fabric inside. I was able to staple it in a few places. When it was all said and done it only took a whopping 2.5-3 hours of wrestling with the chair. Mission Accomplished-I now have a beautiful recovered chair!  :) 

A friend of mine from Empowering Great Minds also recovered her chair.  Her's is really super cute and she also made a little tutorial here.

 You can also find the website that inspired us with a tutorial from Diane from In my own Style here.

Tada!!!  Here are the before and after photos! 
Before-Plain old ugly blue chair! 
After :) Lovely Chevron Chair!
It's going to look perfect at my guided reading table! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Last minute projects & decisions, decisions, decisions

So with only 10 9 days left of the summer, I am trying to cram in a few last minute classroom projects and a few home projects. Over the last couple days I made a few four stops to Joann's and Lowe's. I am so indecisive sometimes.  I literally stood in the paint section today for 35 min trying to decide on a color.  Really?? What is wrong with me? I was so overwhelmed but finally I was able to narrow it down and commit to two colors of spray paint. :)   Hopefully, the weather cooperates so I can finish this project before the week ends. I would have loved to start today but the other materials are locked in my classroom. :(

On another note, I just love teacher appreciation coupons and discounts what better way to purchase fabric for classroom bulletin boards or other classroom crafts.  I used my 40% off coupon to buy the chevron fabric below.  :)  If you haven't already signed up for Joann's discounts, you really should you can save 15% on all purchases and you can opt to receive coupons via flier, email/text message.

Love this! 
"A penny saved is a penny earned." Benjamin Franklin

 I was so excited to score cupcake duct tape at Michael's. 

I am going to keep these projects a surprise because I am just so excited about them. Keeping my fingers crossed mother nature cooperates this week and I get one day of sunshine so I can paint, paint paint.

Toodles! I'm off to create and I don't want to keep anyone waiting too long!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Building Relationships and Gathering IEP Input

Having a successful school year begins with building positive relationships with students, staff and parents.

  • ·        Make a phone call or send a post card to introduce yourself!  Make sure to attach your contact information to the note as well. This is not just for the student but for the parents!  J  

We all know back to school means numerous IEP rewrites and addendum changes and what not.  I am not a fan of all the paperwork but I do like meeting with the parents.  Throughout the school year it is difficult meeting with parents, which means I am usually on the phone trying to catch a parent during their (mainly my) lunch break or in some cases I give them a call in the evening from home.   
Be careful when sending emails as they can become part of the student’s record. I often respond to concerned parents in email with a statement like “I will be able to address your concerns via phone conversation. Please let me know when you would be available to discuss this matter. ”
I know it is not always easy talking to parents but in the long run it is more beneficial and doesn't become part of the student’s written record.

Be sure to document your parent contacts in a communication log with date, time and topic. Keep these notes short and sweet. J
  • ·        Be sure to ask for parent input

At the beginning of every school year I give parents a copy of my parent input form to fill out. I use this information to update the students’ IEPs. You can find it here at my TpT store for free.  
Making the initial effort up front really shows parents that you care about their child and it makes them feel a part of the IEP team.  I usually try to call parents once every 4.5 weeks. This gives parents a chance to voice concerns and hear about positive progress! It also gives them a chance to ask questions and to schedule conferences or meetings if needed.    

I can remember a phone call with a parent who was shocked that I was calling because her child made good choices. This parent was tickled pink!  It still brings tears to my eyes knowing that after 3+ years of being in school not one single teacher called home with goods news. All students have positives if you find them and harness them-You will have a great year! J  
  • ·        Get/Give teacher input call a staffing if you must

You must be sure that your classroom teachers and special/resource teachers (music, art, PE, etc) have an IEP snapshot of some sort. You must provide them with accommodations and other information that they need to know. They don’t need you to print a full copy of the IEP they can find that in each student’s cumulative file.   here at my TpT store
Also when writing IEP’s be sure to gather teacher input as well.  I use numerous forms that are in my IEP/504 Collaboration Bundle pack

One hour of effort now could save you HOURS of frustration in the future. So start in the beginning of the year, it will be more rewarding as the school year goes by.  It is easier to build relationships at the start of the year then after a problem arises

Just Remember It's a Piece of Cake! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Organized Chaos

Organized Chaos- Yuppers, that is what I'm calling my classroom! On one hand,  floors are waxed  and ready for the pitter-patter of not so little feet, but, on the other the other I have just realized that summer is almost as far away as yesterday. Actually with a few weeks to organize, I am trying to think of more effective ways utilize the small space that I call my classroom.  I teach special education and often pull medium sized groups to my class to provide specially designed instruction and testing accomodations.   I have been looping with my caseload the last few years and they are finally 5th graders. I am excited but with the possibility of Thirteen (Yikes-13!!)  5th graders in my teeny tiny room I need to come up with a better arrangement.

   I wish I remembered to take a photo of my cluttered Chaos. It is always amazing how crazily things get packed and boxed up at the end of the year.  I have have numerous plastic bins with drawers and some rolling shelves but other than that I don't have too much besides a macaroni table, a round table and a rectangular table with 2 student computers. Then add all the other things like rolling guided reading cart,  worm watcher(Yes-I've got  Actually, I guess I do have a lot in my little room-Must mean it's time to Purge!!

I just really want this year to be special since this is the last year with this specific group of students! They will head off to the middle school next year.

Any suggestions on how to make it super cute but not so elementaryish?

What ways do you save space in your classroom? And how do you spice up your theme if you loop with your kids?


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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Anxiety and Sensory Processing

Many teachers and parents often question whether or not students’ behaviors are influenced by anxiety or sensory issues. I feel that there is a thin line when determining one or the other, as they are often so closely intertwined it I hard to truly identify. Students with ADD/ADHD, ASD, and SPDs come to mind when discussing this topic. I teach in an inclusive setting and work with many students who are identified with ADD and ADHD.  It is almost a constant dilemma every year trying to find out what works and what doesn’t-especially when what worked last year doesn’t work this year!

In order to help with sensory or anxiety issues you must understand that punishment and rewards do not work as motivators. This only triggers more stress on the already stressed and over stimulated child. L

It is best to create a schedule for the student that incorporates a sensory diet. In my classroom I have utilized various techniques to help students with anxiety/sensory issues.  

The following is just a few of those techniques:
Mini Trampoline **(Honestly, I get the most use out of this one!)
Movement breaks
Blowing Bubbles
Scheduled Breaks
Fitness Balls
Various Fidgets (squishy balls, bouncy balls, rubber balls)
Body Sock
Weighted Vest
Those glittery bottles (I’m sure you’ve seen them on

There are many techniques that you may or may not work for each student, the important thing to remember is to teach them to understand their body so they can begin to self regulate independently.  Even in the primary grades it is important. Self regulation is a skill students must learn to be a successful community member and functioning adult.

For more ideas on fidgets check out for a free download. J  You won’t want to pass this up!

What are sensory/stress techniques do you utilize with your students in the classroom?.

Teaching is a Piece of Cake-RIGHT?

So here goes my first educational blog!

A little bit about me:

This will be the start of my 9th year teaching, and what a journey it has been. I started out teaching in Pennsylvania, as a Psyco-Educational Specialist at a residential treatment facility where I taught grades 1-4. After two years, I moved into the public school setting where I taught numerous long-term substitute positions in various special education settings (grades 2-6) before moving to Virginia in 2009. This year I will loping up with my current caseload and teaching 5th grade inclusion.  I have the best group of kids!

A Year in Review Reflection
This year I planned a DIY Wedding, was the Captain of the Staff Relay for Life Team, and managed the Ecology and Memory Book Clubs, the school year whizzed right past my eyes- I can't even remember if even if stopped to smell the roses.

With recently getting married and the stress of teaching, the discussion of starting a family pushed me over the edge, I had a mini break down rethinking my career as a special education teacher.  This should be a positive moment in my life that I am unsure how to manage teaching and home life to stay sane. Needless to say I am reaching out to the many positive teachers and professionals out here in the blogging community for support. I have never been one to really ask for help or tell someone the dreaded word "NO." I am using this forum to reach out for support and get a fresh start for the 2013-2014 school year!

Just Breathe!  I can do this- It's a Piece of Cake-RIGHT?!?

What are some ways you deal with the daily stress as a teacher? What ways do you manage your family and work?